9round Fitness Centers – Fitness Franchisor Mixes Passion With Inspiration

Passion, when combined with the right inspiration, can lead to the biggest ideas.

Co-founder of 9Round fitness centers, Shannon Hudson, took his passion for kickboxing and added some inspiration from the Curves circuit training clubs to establish the kickboxing circuit training franchise. “I wanted to bring the real training that fighters do to get into phenomenal shape to the average person, but take out the worst part, which is getting punched in the face,” Hudson said during a recent interview from his franchise headquarters in Greenville, SC.

Hudson, who has been training in martial arts almost his entire life, co-founded the business with his wife, Heather, in 2008, borrowing money and maxing out their credit card in the process. Without being able to buy a sign for the building and without a marketing budget, the couple still signed up 100 members within the first month of operation and it’s been growing steadily since then, with franchising starting in 2009.

Currently, 9Round has 220 locations open in 39 states and four other countries: Canada, Mexico, Australia and Saudi Arabia. The company is opening two to three clubs a week and has another 140 licenses in the process of becoming franchisees, Hudson said.

Short Circuit

With their circuit training method, Hudson said, they’ve solved the four problems of the fitness industry. The first is people not being able to get to a gym on time for a workout class.

With 9Round, members perform exercises using common kickboxing gym equipment like dumbbells, kettle bells and punching bags and they switch through nine different stations. A bell rings every three minutes and when the bell rings, members switch stations. This way, there are no classes. “The client is never late,” he said. “They can jump in anytime.”

Second, is that it’s hard to fit a good workout into such a short amount of time. But, thanks to the specially devised kickboxing-inspired exercises at 9Round, a full body workout can be achieved in 30 minutes.
Thirdly, they’ve solved the problem of repetition by having different workouts every day. The workout programs are made at the Greenville headquarters and communicated to all the 9Round clubs so they are all doing the same program right across the country on any given day.

And finally, 9Round gets around the usual large square footage requirements of gyms by having no machines, allowing them to keep a modest footprint of about 1,200 square feet. The small size means members always have a trainer there who knows their name and can give them that personal touch by motivating them and ensuring they’re doing things properly.

To keep things light and fun, the 9Round co-founder said, the clubs play good music, keep up good energy, and give everyone a fun-fighter name. His is “Shannon the Cannon,” for example.

Ideal Franchisee

Hudson described his ideal franchisee as someone with a passion for fitness and a personality, noting that fitness is a personality-driven industry. “Good trainers have good personalities and can motivate people to do things they wouldn’t normally do on their own,” Hudson said.

The company still has territory available virtually everywhere in the US except for a few cities that have sold out, including Greenville, SC, Kansas City and Charlotte, NC. The company’s goal is to get to 1,000 clubs opened by the end of 2017. Hudson called 9Round the pickiest franchisor out there. The company doesn’t take everyone and in fact it could have sold about 40 more franchisee licenses in the past year than it had, but many people were turned away because they didn’t fit the culture and the brand, and were in it for the wrong reasons.

Hudson says 9Round wants owner operators who want to be active in their communities. They also have to be physically fit themselves so they can be an example to others. That’s why they have to undergo a physical fitness test as well as an initial interview.

No Need to Think

Fitness is a growing industry, meaning there is always a demand for it, Hudson said. However, it’s such a huge industry with so many offerings that people often get confused by it. That’s where 9Round fits in, giving people a workout that they don’t have to think too much about. They simply show up to a 9Round location and the trainers there will tell them exactly what to do, how many to do, and when to do it. “All members have to do is walk in the door and follow the circuit,” Hudson said. The company has effectively streamlined fitness. Anyone can do it, no matter their fitness level or their age, he said, noting that 9Round has seen people from 12 to 70 years old in their clubs.

Training and Support

The company has people and programs to help new franchisees. It offers to bring franchisees to the corporate headquarters for four days of training that encompasses sales and software training in the classroom and hands-on training at various clubs around Greenville.

“A lot of time is invested in new franchisees up front to make sure they’re successful,” Hudson noted. 9Round also has dedicated staff members available for ongoing support once a franchise has opened.

Coming from passionate and inspired roots, 9Round continues to inspire entrepreneurs who are passionate about fitness and want to be successful with their own business.


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